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Crisis Coaching in Disasters

Following a disaster of such magnitude that the President has declared it as eligible for Federal assistance, communities are often in chaos and individual survivors are undergoing their own feelings of disbelief and shock. It is within this context communities must respond to the emotional needs of their residents: adults and children.


Adults living in the impacted area must balance their roles as survivors, responders and caregivers during this time of turmoil. They are often overwhelmed with the responsibility and immediate tasks of crisis coaching

and recovery and must take time to meet the physical and emotional needs of themselves and family members and respond to the needs of the larger community. Consequently, children may be left in the care of unfamiliar persons or provided with limited explanations of what has actually happened.


Disaster response workers, who are providing crisis coaching and emotional recovery assistance, need to be sensitive to the emotional vulnerability of children. The materials discussed herein will give crisis response workers essential information about the impact of disasters on individuals, how the trauma associated with such events impacts children, the unique world of children, and the diversity of family structures in which children reside. A special emphasis is placed on assisting child health workers to understand children as uniquely different from adults, and childhood as distinct from adult-hood.


Child health workers must engage children in the ever changing and qualitatively distinct world of emotional and cognitive stages of development in which children find themselves. Te purpose of the manual is to achieve a better understanding of the world of children and the nature of disaster response. Te manual also provides information and guidance for the broader group of individuals concerned with the mental health needs of children who experience major disasters, and may include the following: Experienced mental health professionals who specialize in working withfamilies and their children who experience serious emotional disorders; Experienced mental health professionals who specialize in working with families and their children who experience serious emotional disorders; Other health professionals such as physicians, physician assistants, nurses, and rehabilitation specialists who are experienced in working with children; Professional and paraprofessional workers who provide crisis and suicide intervention services, case managers, and other public health and social service personnel who work with children on a regular basis;

Introduction School and licensed day care center personnel, including teachers, teachers’ aides, guidance counselors, school social workers and psychologists, and administrators; Nonprofessional volunteers from the community who have little or no training, but who have had personal experience with their own and neighbor’s children; and,  Adults who routinely work with children either as volunteers, or as paid service providers or caregivers who have a strong commitment to helping children in times of crisis.

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